Traceable Explores Growing Disconnects With How Clothes Are Made
Looking for some food for thought? Traceable is a documentary about the first world’s growing disconnect with the hands that make our clothes. Filmed in the aftermath of the collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh, a devastating event that killed 1,138 workers and maimed thousands more, Traceable follows Toronto designer Laura Siegelas she struggles to reconcile her role in the fashion industry with the anonymous artisans who shoulder it. Ecouterre reached out to director Jennifer Sharpe to suss out Traceable’sunderlying message, the importance of transparency, in the supply chain, and which apparel firms are doing “traceability” right.
What inspired you to make your film?
Noticing the trend in labeling clothing as “sustainable,” while witnessing a departure of manufacturing and production in the apparel industry in North America, was the beginning of my impetus for Traceable.
As a consumer, I wanted to understand more about where the clothing I was buying came from, and the people and communities being impacted in making it.
After connecting with Laura [Siegel] on her story and the work she does with communities in India, Traceable began to take shape.
“Fast fashion has grown to a point where many of us view clothing as disposable.”
We got back in touch after we had both graduated and Laura had gone on to make her collection in India and Peru.
How is “fast fashion” changing the way we relate to our clothing?
In my opinion, fast fashion has grown to a point where many of us view clothing as disposable. And how can we not with the volumes being pumped out each and every season by large brands?
On the other hand, the growth of fast fashion has caused an alternative movement in the industry where quality triumphs quantity, a return to a slower and more sustainable way of making clothing. And that is a very positive thing.
What revelation surprised you the most while making the film?
Getting to see firsthand the various artisans across India and the lifelong dedication to their skill and craft being passed down generation after generation was astonishing for me.
It was deeply inspiring and I felt privileged to be able to witness and document it.
What does transparency mean to you?
Transparency, to me, means providing consumers a spectrum of information needed to make a purchasing decision: where was [a garment] made, who made it, and what were the conditions like for those across the supply chain?
“Transparency provides consumers a spectrum of information needed to make a purchasing decision.”
“Traceable” has become a bit of a buzzword lately; how can brands and designers wield the concept most effectively?
Brands and designers can start implementing the concept of “traceability” by building in a level of consumer-facing transparency into their practices, visually communicating where that product was made, who made it, how it was made, and those impacted across the supply chain.
We live in a time where social media can be a cheap and simple tool for communicating these messages.
What are some of the labels that are doing transparency/traceability right?
On the larger scale, Patagoniais leading the way and has been for some time.
And of course online marketplaces like Zady help curate brands who are making waves in transparency and ethical practices.
What advice can you give up-and-coming designers who want to consider the social impacts of their work?
As I am a film maker and not a designer, it is hard for me to give advice to designers just starting out. But, in general, as I tell people who are taking on something big and worthy: talk to as many people as you can doing what it is you want to do, listen to what they have to say about their experiences, and take away what you can from hearing about their failures as well as their successes.
“It’s about rearranging your priorities towards clothing, even if just a little bit.”
What advice would you give consumers who want to shop more ethically?
It really is about rearranging your priorities towards clothing, even if just a little bit.
As someone who is very cost-conscious, I shop vintage or secondhand often. But I also have the luxury of living in a place where secondhand is of great selection and quality.
When I do buy new items of clothing, I want these to be of higher quality so they will last more than a couple of years, and I look to invest in things I know I will wear across seasons, fit me well, and have a timeless, unique-to-me quality.